America's Most Endangered Historic Places 2001
In a report released in June 2001, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed 11 historic sites across America that are in danger of being lost forever. Some of the sites are threatened by new construction and urban sprawl, while others are simply falling apart from neglect and decay.
Here is the complete list of endangered places issued by the Trust:
- Historic American Movie Theaters. Throughout the nation, hundreds of historic movie houses have been closed in the face of overwhelming competition from suburban multiplexes. Many of these small, independent theaters have already been demolished, so that fewer than 300 still exist. This is a disastrous situation, not only because such theaters are often architectural gems, featuring Egyptian or other Art Deco motifs, but also because the theaters provide an economic anchor for many downtown areas. Theater closings often result in a loss of income for surrounding businesses. Some theaters that are losing the battle against the multiplex include the Rogers Theater in Shelby, N.C., the Capitol Theater in Burlington, Iowa, and the Senator Theater in Baltimore, Md.
- Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, Calif. Constructed by Chinese immigrants in 1880, the Bok Kai Temple boasts exquisite wall paintings, gilded altars, painted statuary, and elaborately embroidered ceremonial banners and lanterns. The wall paintings are thought to be the only examples of their kind in the United States. The temple, which has been used continuously as a house of worship and as a community meeting place since it was constructed, now suffers from years of water damage. Cracks have appeared in the paintings and bits of the painted plaster walls have crumbled away.
- Telluride Valley Floor, Telluride, Colo. Tourism is booming in this verdant, peaceful valley, and plans are underway to develop a large hotel complex, gondola, golf course, commercial space, and housing. However, development would threaten Telluride, one of the Rocky Mountains' last historic mining towns, and seriously jeopardize the scenic beauty of the valley. The National Trust concludes, “The very qualities that make Telluride unique would be profoundly compromised by the development.”
- CIGNA Campus, Bloomfield, Conn. When it was completed in 1957, the headquarters of the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company was hailed as a milestone of modern architecture, characterized by simple geometric forms and set within a beautifully landscaped sculpture park. Five years later, the headquarters of the Emhart Corporation was built nearby and received similar praise. Both buildings are now owned by CIGNA Corporation, which is planning to demolish them and turn the site into an office complex, with stores and houses built around a golf course.
- Carter G. Woodson Home, Washington, DC. Carter G. Woodson is known primarily as the founder of Black History Month, which he began promoting as Negro History Week in 1926. A serious scholar and historian, Woodson was a lifelong advocate of education and the preservation of black history. It is therefore a sad irony that Woodson's home, a circa 1890s red brick row house in Washington's Shaw neighborhood, is in desperate need of preservation. The building has been abandoned for nearly a decade and is suffering from neglect and water damage.
- Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii. Ford Island is located at the center of the Pearl Harbor Historic District. The 450-acre site, which is adjacent to the USS Arizona memorial, still has the original airfield, air tower, and officers' quarters that were there when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Remnants of craters from the bombing and strafing are still visible. The U.S. navy is currently planning to build a major housing development on the site, with a festival market place and a recreational marina. Given the island's close proximity to Battleship Row, such development would pose a significant threat to one of the nation's greatest historic landmarks.
- Miller-Purdue Barn, Grant County, Ind. This 150-year-old barn is a white-painted structure with three gables and five cupolas. Originally owned by the Miller family, it was given in the 1940s to Purdue University, which used it as part of an experimental farm for agricultural students. Then in the late 1980s, the barn and surrounding farmland were sold to an Indiana farmer. However, historic barns like this one are not equipped for modern farming, and many have been demolished or simply neglected. Legislation is needed to give farmers incentives to preserve or adapt historic barns.
- Stevens Creek Settlements, Lincoln, Neb. Although it is located near the edge of a busy city, the Stevens Creek Valley is prime agricultural land dotted by historic farmsteads, many of which are still owned by the descendants of the area's original settlers. In fact, two sites, the Stevens Creek Stock Farm and the Herter-Sartore Farmstead, are already listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The quiet beauty of the farms, fields, and woods will be destroyed, however, if city and county officials move forward with plans to build a new expressway that will cut right through the farmland.
- Prairie Churches, North Dakota. In the face of declining populations and agriculture, many of the simple prairie churches serving small farm communities across North Dakota are falling into disuse and decay. Many of these structures, which are built in a variety of styles ranging from simple folk vernacular to Greek Revival to Tudor style, still contain stained glass windows, carvings, statues and other unique artwork. Rather than go vacant or be demolished, prairie churches could be adapted for use as community centers, libraries, day care centers, and museums.
- Los Caminos del Rio, Lower Rio Grande Valley, Tex. The Los Caminos del Rio corridor stretches for 200 mi between Laredo and Brownsville, Tex., and includes a variety of different communities, from farms and ranches to small towns and fast-growing cities. Many of these communities, which are often organized according to traditional building plans around a central plaza, reflect a rich blend of both Anglo and Hispanic culture. Today the older buildings are threatened by poorly planned growth, inappropriate development, and often neglect.
- Jackson Ward, Richmond, Va. This once thriving African-American district, famous for its theaters, clubs, and restaurants, fell into decline in the 1950s after it was ripped in half by the construction of Interstate 95. In subsequent decades, many residents moved away, businesses dried up, and historic buildings were torn down or left vacant. The expansion of a convention center built in the 1980s, slated to reopen in 2003, poses a further threat to the neighborhood.
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